Let me give a big gastronomic thank you to Kelso, the only Panamanian restaurant in New York City. Those countries in NYC where there is only ONE restaurant to represent their cuisines, such as Hungary, Paraguay, Cambodia, Burma - must be embraced and cherished. Kelso, located in Crown Heights (Brooklyn), is named after the 1960 Triple Crown winning horse, and has been around for 55 years. The Kelso of today under the ownership of Veronica Carmeolo since 2006 is thriving.
The menu is diverse and offers the essentials of Panamanian cuisine. I was tempted by the Bacalao (Codfish with tomatoes and onions) and the Costillitas de Puerco (Smothered Pork Ribs). However, when I requested "what is most traditional dish?" My waitress Inga (blonde haired-blue eyed - native of Panama, father from Estonia) strongly pushed me to have the Soupa de Pata (Cowfoot soup with corn, potato, dumplings, yuca, sweet potato) - and she telling me she would throw in a "pig tail" also. The soup sounding quite graphic was very tasty, so thick and full of flavor. Though I did not eat the pig tail, the texture unique in the rubbery texture. I also had three apertivos (3 for $5), having Totillas - fried corn fritter, Hojaldres - fried dough fritter, and my favorite, Carimanolas - cassava fritter stuffed with ground beef. When plied with spicy orange sauce, this was especially tasty.
Owner Veronica Carmeola for the past eleven years, with the help of her daughter did a complete renovation on Kelso. The restaurant with light grayish walls, contemporary lighting, hard-wood floors and examples of Panamanian folk art, the place looks great! She is a wonderful warm hostess and pleased to share her knowledge of the cuisine and general questions of Panama.
Address - 648 Franklin Avenue (Crown Heights - Brooklyn) (718) 857 - 4137